Exploring the city and meeting the group (our new travelling companions) at 6.00 pm
15.01.2017 - 15.01.2017 32 °C
We both had a great night's sleep - about 10 hours of it! And the bed and pillows are divine.
After breakfast, we met the girls in the foyer and after perusing a local map given to us by reception, we decided to walk a block or two down the road to the Sule Pagoda. As opposed to the old saying, "Everything that glistens is not gold", well everything here that glistens, IS gold! As I had long shorts and a sleeveless top on, I had to cover my shoulders and my knees with a sarong and a long sleeved top. Phil didn't come in because he didn't want to take his shoes off and walk barefoot. The gold in these places is just amazing. It's everywhere. The Sule Pagoda is one of the city's oldest landmarks. It was built after the Third Buddhist Synod about 2200 years ago. The golden zedi is unusual in that its octagonal shape continues right up to the bell.
We then walked a couple more blocks towards the river to Merchant Road to look at the old colonial buildings, but we didn't really see any. And those that we did, we in a very bad state of disrepair.
We returned to the hotel and the conceirge had booked a taxi for us for several hours to take us to other well known landmarks in Yangon. And he made sure that the driver spoke English. First stop was the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda which houses the Reclining Buddah. How fabulous this was. Just amazing. The reclining Buddha is 72m long and one of the larget images in Myanmar. The original Buddah was built in 1907 and rebuilt in 1957.
Next stop was the Bogyoke Aung San Museum which is located in Bahan Township. It is the former home of General Aung San and his wife Daw Kin Kyi and is the house where Aung Sung Sue Kyi grew up. The house dates from the 1920s and is still in very good condition.
We then called into Karaweik which is located on the Royal Lake and resembles the images of a traditional royal barge. We stopped at a cafe called The Public and had a lovely large cool beer with our driver, but he was only allowed to have a smoothie as he was driving. The bottles are huge so we bought one for him to take home.
We then visited Botataung Pagoda which was named after the thousand military leaders who escorted relics of Buddha brought from India over 2000 years ago. There is a piece of Buddah's hair in there. The Pagoda was hit by a bomb in 1943 and was rebuilt after the war. It is unusual for the zedi to be hollow and you can walk through it. The walls and ceilings are gold, gold, gold and around every corner, there is someone squatting in the corner, praying or chanting. We asked someone about it and there was a monk in the group and he wanted to have his photo taken with us, so we obliged and then asked him to pose with us.
After our day's touring, we came back to the hotel and went for a quick swim. I was SO pleased with myself as I swam two lengths of the pool, freestyle. I mean, head in the water and properly breathing. I haven't done that since I was in my teens. So nice to know I can still do it! But boy, was I puffing at the end of it. I'll try to do three lengths tomorrow and build it up.
Before our Scenic Meet and Greet at 6.00pm, we dived into the Club Lounge for one small Happy Hour G&T. We had our briefing and as yet, haven't had much of an opportunity to speak in depth to other members of our group, but they all seem quite nice. There are some pommies in our group and one American couple and the rest are Australians. There are two groups travelling together - our group with guide Susan and the other group, who are going on to Inle Lake for four days at the end of our Irrawaddy cruise are touring with Papa. But we all go to the same functions, just in different buses.
At 7.15 pm we met in the foyer and caught the bus to the lovely old Strand Hotel, where we had our Welcome Dinner. The decor was traditional old English in a very stylish manner and we had a lovely meal of Cucumber Salad served with Smoked Salmon and Lemon Dressing; Grilled Chilean White Sea Bass/Osso Buco; and Lemon Tart. Very, very nice.
Back on the bus and back to the hotel for a reasonably early night, as the tour starts in earnest tomorrow.